TFNet Advisor Yacob Ahmad was invited to present a keynote paper on “Crop protection in fruits and vegetables: Current scenarios and challenges” during the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) 2020 Crop Protection Colloquium on 25-26 August 2020 at the MARDI Headquarters.
Crop protection deals with the management of pests and diseases, which is important for food security and sustainability. The Colloquium aimed to share information and achievements of R&D as well as promote the latest innovations and technologies in pest and disease management.
A total of 16 oral presentations and 53 poster presentations were delivered in the colloquium. It was attended by MARDI researchers from around Malaysia.
In his Keynote, Yacob said that the threat of pests and diseases to the fruit and vegetable industry occurs at all levels of the value chain – from the production level in the farm to the retail/consumer level.
He added that in recent years, Malaysia has experienced major pests and diseases issues on fruits such as citrus greening, papaya ring spot virus and bacterial wilt on papaya, fusarium wilt on Cavendish bananas, and bacterial rot in dragon fruit. Meanwhile, other common afflictions include Phytophthora on durian, and moko disease on cooking bananas.
The causes of disease and pest attacks on crops are usually influenced by several abiotic factors such as weather uncertainty, soil degradation and farm management practices such as monoculture intensification of crops.
He also emphasizes that a holistic approach should be taken as a mitigation measure against all threats of disease and pest infestation. These include the study on the cycle of diseases or pests according to climate change, focused breeding programs including at the molecular level, the use of `biocides’ and natural predators, enhanced integrated pest management, improved soil fertility and crop health, and farm sanitation. The development of digital applications using hand held devices can also help in identifying and managing crop protection.
In addition, cooperation between other agencies, universities and industry stakeholders needs to be enchanced for information sharing and direction setting. There is also a need to increase the experts pool and create champions in related fields.